A full century has elapsed since Abraham Lincoln signed the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. A large number of people were participants in the drama that culminated in the signing; members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, Negroes, religious and civic leaders, military leaders and common soldiers, clerks and telegraph operators. Many of them have left accounts of their experiences and observations, but few if any were in a position to tell the full story. Thus, we have from the participants who left some record of their role mere fragments. And none of them was able to see the Emancipation Proclamation in its broader context and significance. Without the vantage point provided by time, they could hardly be expected to have the objectivity and perspective that the span of one hundred years provides. But without their accounts the historian would be in no position to tell the story.
While historians have dealt with the Proclamation as a phase or an aspect of the Civil War, they have given scant attention to the evolution of the document in the mind of Lincoln, the circumstances and conditions that led to its writing, its impact on the course of the war at home and